Posted tagged ‘zoom’

Putting it into perspective

June 10, 2010

Greetings blog readers, and welcome to another post by me, Derek Gale of Gale Photography near Swindon. 

At my photography training courses I’m often asked, “What’s the best sort of lens to use” ?  That’s an impossible question to answer because so much depends on the type of photography the person wants to do.  If you like photographing insects, or other small things, then a macro lens would be perfect.  

"Paua shell" by Gale Photography

I used a macro lens (a lens that gives it best performance focussed on near objects), for this shot of some paua shell/abalone.  It’s beautiful stuff and is great to photograph.  Here it’s lit from behind as well as in front. 

If you like photographing birds, or distant objects, then a telephoto lens would be perfect.  

"The Weather Project" by Gale Photography

A telephoto lens is one that magnifies compared to the normal human field of vision.  This shot of “The Weather Project” at Tate Modern in London, was taken with a lens with a focal length of ca. 150mm.  This gives a magnification of around 3 times. 

If you like landscapes, then a wide-angle lens might be the right thing for you.  A wide-angle lens generally has a wider field of view than the human eye. 

"Lake District landscape" by Gale Photography

This shot, of some bad weather approaching in the Lake District, was taken with a lens that had a focal length of about 35mm, which gives a slightly wider view than normal. 

Whatever type of lens you have, it’s important to remember that the “look” of an image changes depending on the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  The perspective, and the relationship of objects that are closer or further away, can change dramatically.  

Here’s a series of images to show you what I mean… 

I’ve shot a phone box with a number of different lens focal lengths ranging from very wide-angle to long telephoto.  I moved further away as I increased the focal length, and tried to keep the phone box the same height in the frame in each image. 

"Constant subject size: 18mm" by Gale Photography

 The first image is with a very wide-angle lens.  Note the wide-angle distortion, and how we are looking at the pillar box almost from the side. 

"Constant subject size:36mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the image magnification is approaching that of the human eye, so the perspective is looking more natural. 

"Constant subject size: 135mm" by Gale Photography

In this image the focal length used produces an image magnification of about 2.5 times.  Note how the background is beginning to look much flatter relative to the phone box, and also how the pillar box has appeared to rotate compared to the very wide-angle image.  This sort of lens is great for creative portrait photography as it produces a slight flattening of the facial features which is generally quite flattering. 

"Constant subject size: 300mm" by Gale Photography

This final image uses a lens focal length of 300mm, which gives a magnification of about 6 times compared to the human eye.  The foreground and background now all seem to be in the same plane, and we are looking straight at the pillar box. 

So you can see that the “look” of an image depends on a combination of factors; the focal length of the lens, and where you take the image from.  Remember, when you use your zoom lens, that it doesn’t just get you closer or further away, it changes the perspective as well.  Using your feet to get closer or further away can be just as powerful; I call it “pedual zoom” – or “zooming with your feet”!  

So, what’s the best lens to use?  The one that gives you the results you want!  

Have fun with your creative photography, and if you want to learn more why not book one of our training courses

Cheers, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk 

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Calling all Trekkies: Part 2

May 27, 2010

Last Saturday we had the first Photo Trek of the season down at Buscot Weir, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire.  It’s a great location on the River Thames, and not too far from my photographic studio near Swindon.  

When I’d researched the Buscot Weir Photo Trek I’d planned for all sorts of weather conditions, and I was delighted that the day dawned sunny, bright, and warm. 

"Buscot Weir panorama" by Gale Photography

 The weir pool looked peaceful in the morning light, so I shot a 6-image classic panorama, complete with swan.  I used my Lumix Fx-500 digital compact, and stitched it together in Photoshop PS5.  As with other Photo Treks, I took a selection of cameras; a compact, a superzoom compact, and a DSLR.  Most of the time I ended up using the two compacts, as they both have full manual control, and are great for demonstrating techniques.  

The trek attendees were an excellent group, with a range of photographic experience, and a range of equipment. What they had in common was a willingness to learn how to improve their photography, and they all had some great ideas during the day. 

The Buscot Weir Photo Trek has an emphasis on water.  The Thames splits into 3 parts at Buscot; one part going to the lock, one to a sluice, and one to the weir.  There’s a lot of dramatic moving water, and it makes for great images. 

"Buscot water 1" by Gale Photography

This water shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 superzoom compact.  I chose a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second and an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The long shutter speed has given a nice blur to the water.  We had to find a part of the weir out of direct sunlight, as the brightness was making selection of a long shutter speed difficult. 

"Buscot Weir sluice" by Gale Photography

With this image, of water rushing under one of the sluice gates, I’ve used the bright sunshine to my advantage.  The light was shining deeply into the water from the other side of the sluice, and it’s given a fantastic luminosity and colour.  Shot with the FZ-50. 

"Buscot pebbles 2" by Gale Photography

This image is of some rather more peaceful water.  In a field near the river there’s a cattle trough.  It was full to the brim with nice clean water, and for some reason it had a load of pebbles at the bottom.  The sunlight playing through the water onto the  pebbles made for a stunning semi-abstract image.  An ideal subject for my FX-500. 

Away from the weir we found a field full of grasses, buttercups, and seeded dandelions.   It was hard to do the field justice by trying to photograph it all at once, so we concentrated on details.  It was a perfect place to show the difference that changing your lens focal length can make. 

"Wide-angle grasses" by Gale Photography

"Telephoto grasses" by Gale Photography

The first image used an equivalent focal length of 24mm, and the second an equivalent focal length of 420mm.  The first image gives a better idea  of the relationship between the different types of plant. The second has a more abstract feel, due to the out of focus background.  Which do you prefer? 

"Swallow music" by Gale Photography

This final image is of a swallow resting on electric cables at St John’s Lock which is upstream from Buscot.  I loved the simple composition of one bird, the cables, and that wonderful blue sky. 

So, an excellent day.  The weather was great, the people were great, and it was a great learning experience. 

There’s still some places on our other Photo Treks this year, so if you would like some photography tuition, ” al fresco”, why not come along? 

See you soon, 

Derek 

www.galephotography.co.uk

I’m so shallow.

November 6, 2009

While I was becoming a more serious SLR photographer, I was obsessive about getting everything in focus.  I think this came from having used box cameras that had small maximum apertures, and compact 35mm cameras that had wide-angle lenses.  Small lens apertures and wide-angle lenses lead to what’s called a “large depth of field”.  This means that everything from the foreground to the far background is in focus.  As I improved, I realised that you can get much more creative images if you control the focus point carefully, and limit what’s in focus to a small area.  It’s called a shallow depth of field.  Here’s an example:

"The Poppy" by Gale Photography

"The Poppy" by Gale Photography

I’ve focussed on the foreground poppy, used a telephoto lens and a wide lens aperture, to throw the background wire fence out of focus.  It makes for a much more evocative image, with a relevance to Remembrance Day. 

You can also use control of the focus area to make images that are ambiguous, and open to many interpretations.

"Sequins & lights" by Gale Photography

"Sequins & lights" by Gale Photography

The warm-toned out-of-focus circles in the background mimic the patterns of the in-focus sequins in the foreground, but we’re not sure what their spatial relationship is, or even their sizes.

With portraits you need to focus on the subject’s eyes.  If you let the rest of the image go soft, it allows the viewer to really concentrate on the “windows to the soul”, and gives great communication.  Here I’ve taken it to another level by only focusing on the nearer eye, which gives even more impact to the image.

"One eye in focus" by Gale Photography

"One eye in focus" by Gale Photography

If you are inspired to try and take these sort of images, the best way is to use a telephoto lens,  or zoom your compact camera’s lens out to its maximum, and use a wide lens aperture.

Have fun!

Shake, rattle and roll!

July 9, 2009

Many of you have got digital cameras.  

Given that almost every mobile phone now has a camera built into it, and also that everyone seems to have at least one digital compact camera in their household, I think there must be many more digital cameras in the UK now than there are people.  That’s a very interesting statistic.   It would be interesting to know how many of the people who have a digital camera have read the manual or been on a photographic training course…

creative camera movement blog image

The automatic focusing and exposure systems on newer cameras are simply extraordinary.  They can identify faces, allow you to choose which person is the most important in a group, and then follow that person around the frame as they move.  Some cameras even take two pictures in quick succession, compare them, and then tell you if the people in the pictures have blinked, thus giving you a chance to retake it.  10 years ago this would all have seemed like science fiction.

Despite all this marvellous technology there are still an awful lot of images out there that can be improved.  The main problem I see has been around for ages; it’s camera shake.  Camera shake gives you images that are not sharp, so you aren’t getting the benefit of all those shiny new pixels.  Here’s an example that I took for this post:

camera shake

So how can you stop camera shake?   The best way is to support the camera firmly during the exposure, and use the shortest shutter speed you can.  The trend for cameras to have a viewing screen on the back, and to not have an optical viewfinder hasn’t helped with supporting the camera.  Using the screen on the back forces you to hold the camera away from your body and this increases the risk of camera shake.  If you can, rest the camera on a wall, shelf, tree, or anything that will stop it from moving around as you take the picture.  I’ve even used the roof of my car – with the engine turned off of course. 

The second trend that increases the risk of camera shake is zooming the lens in order to get closer.  The more you zoom the more risk of shake there is.  If you can, it’s better to get closer to your subject by moving yourself and then using less zoom.   In these examples the first image shows shake, as I was further away and zoomed the lens as much as it would go.  Like the door and tiles image above, these two images were taken to deliberately to show how it can go wrong!

zoom shake 1

With this image I got closer to the flowers and used less zoom.  As you can see, the result is much sharper.

zoom shake 2

Digital cameras make it much easier to practice, so give it a try!

Once you have mastered the art of taking pictures without camera shake, you can move on to using it in a creative way, as shown in the first image of this post, and also below.

creative shake 1 watermarked

I’ll be writing more tips on improving your photography in future, so do keep checking the blog, or subscribe so you don’t miss any.